Thursday, 9 September 2010

Excerpt Day - The Storm Chronicles: The Falcon and the Jackal © Jay Di Meo

Excerpt

Chapter One

“James, I swear you like that amulet more than you like your girlfriend.” Dan winked from the museum’s ticket desk, his beady eyes gleaming.

 

James winced. Yet another relationship he’d been unable to keep. “Can I just have my ticket, please?”

 

“At least give my niece a call, will ya?”

 

James avoided the man’s gaze. “You know we’re not together anymore, Dan.”

 

Ticket clutched in his hand, he strode into the quiet museum and inhaled the familiar smell of floor polish and recycled air. Maybe he really should make up with his girlfriend. He should also take his finance studies more seriously and patch things up with his mother. It was past time he got his life in order.

 

But instead he stood in the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum’s brightly lit entrance hall, between Tuaret, the bloated hippopotamus goddess, and Bes, the dwarf god of fertility. Their bejeweled eyes were accusing.

 

Damn it.

James rushed down the deserted aisles to get to his favorite exhibit. In half an hour the museum would close. Flickering lights illuminated cases with statuettes and painted sarcophagi. He caught a glimpse of his crinkled t-shirt and mussed blond hair in the glass, and frowned. It had been a long day. Smoothing back the short strands, he entered the temporary exhibition hall. He hastened between stone carvings and mummy portraits, and came to stand before a plain, black display case.

 

The amulet.

 

A disc of pale silver with delicate designs of snakes entwined around its border, and in its center, an inlaid, underlined circle in shiny jet. ‘Shen’, read the legend. ‘It represents the sun’s orbit, and symbolizes time, often depicted in the talons of falcons. The amulet’s function is to give life.’

James stifled a yawn and stretched his abused muscles. Carrying heavy trays around at work after a full day of classes always tired him, but the dreams were the last straw. Odd dreams that woke him up in a cold sweat every night. Dreams about this amulet.

 

But even though he stumbled with weariness, he couldn’t stay away. For the past three evenings, he’d stood before the amulet, drawn by a feeling he couldn’t explain. James rubbed his itchy eyes and pushed his hair back from his forehead. He was only nineteen, for god’s sake. I should be out with my friends, not obsessing over a bunch of dreams. He sighed, Should have gone for drinks and darts after work.

He adjusted the straps of his backpack on his aching shoulders, and peered at the amulet as if it would offer a solution.

“A beautiful piece.”

 

James jumped at the whisper so close to his ear and turned, biting back a curse. The guy was about his own age, tall and lean, with dark hair and eyes. Black slacks and a black t-shirt hugged his frame. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a fashion billboard.

 

“Yes, beautiful,” James said and swallowed hard, not thinking of the amulet anymore.

 

The man leaned forward, arms crossed over his broad chest. Two golden hoops glinted on his left earlobe. High cheekbones gave him an elfin appearance. “It’s an ancient piece. A jewel.”

 

”Jewel?” James lost the thread of the discussion. His body was having a very inappropriate reaction. His breath hitched as the pressure in his groin mounted. What’s wrong with me? He struggled to focus his wandering mind. “It’s an amulet.” His jeans tightened more, and he fought down panic. Maybe… Maybe ignoring this would make it go away.

 

The man smiled broadly, revealing even, white teeth. “I call it a jewel, because it’s precious. It’s much more than it seems.”

 

“Really?” James shifted uncomfortably and prayed the guy hadn’t noticed his arousal. “It’s a cool thing this…jewel. I never thought I’d be interested in ancient Egypt. I read some books long ago, about the mythology, you know, about Isis and Osiris…”

 

God. Stop babbling!

The man stood very close to James, their faces only inches apart and their shoulders almost touching. He tilted his head to the side. “Not interested in old things?”

 

James shook his head and smiled ruefully. “I just like this piece.”

 

The man turned and rested his back against the wall, one foot supported on the white surface. “Your name is…?”

 

“James.”

 

“James.” His voice caressed the name.

 

James shivered and groaned inwardly as more heat pooled in his groin.

 

“What’s so fascinating about this jewel?” asked the man.

 

James frowned. This question had echoed in his mind for the past few days. “I think I dreamed about it again last night.” He rubbed at the furrow between his brows. “I saw two symbols made of fire.”

 

The man’s jaw visibly clenched, his eyes narrowed. “What symbols?”

 

“A winged disk and an eye.” James’ face grew warm.

 

The guy, who had seemed about to speak, just stared at him. Then he gave a deep, rich chuckle, a trickle of dark chocolate. Straight hair framed the man’s face, thin wisps brushing his neck like strands of molten metal. He fought the urge to twine his fingers in it, see if it was as soft as it looked.

 

“The wadjet, the all-seeing eye. And the sun disk,” said the man, staring at James, scattering his thoughts. “I’ll be damned.”

 

“Ah, listen…” James raked his fingers through his hair, fighting a shiver. The man’s gaze was riveted to him, making him uncomfortable. Between the twin attractions of the amulet and the strange man, he’d opened up too much, and stayed out too late. “Actually, I should be going—“

 

“Wait.”

 

James stopped in mid-turn. Whispers slithered in the room. He heard the swish of wings and urgent voices muttering. He rubbed at goose bumps on his forearms.

 

Then the lights of the museum flickered and dimmed.

 

What the hell?

The man’s face glowed, as pale as the amulet’s silver. He moved closer. “Do you remember my name?”

 

James took a step back, wiping sweaty palms on his jeans. “Is this a joke?”

 

The man looked down, his lashes throwing impossibly long shadows on his cheeks. “I’m serious, James.”

 

James licked dry lips. Then the boards creaked to his right, and he spun around.

 

Dan entered the room, and tapped his fingers on the wall. “Time to lock up, young man. Come on.”

 

James let out an explosive breath. All this was creeping him out. He definitely needed a good night’s sleep.

 

He turned back to the man. “Hey, this—”

 

Nobody was there.

 

* * * * *

 

Back in his every day routine, dreams still tortured James. Just stress, he told himself. Whatever the cause, he sleepwalked his way through exams and work. Even his roommate, Dave, had cornered him, concerned he looked sick. That was a shock, since he and Dave had never been close. When had James earned his concern?

 

The haunting pull of the amulet was now joined by the compelling memory of the strange man’s rich laughter, his handsome face, his broad shoulders. And why am I thinking about another man’s body?

Annoyed with himself, James refused to give it more thought, and fought the urge to return to the museum. Instead, he decided to meet Mike for drinks and poker to keep his mind busy. Maybe he hadn’t even seen that man. Maybe his exhaustion had conjured him.

 

Four days later, the combined attraction of the jewel and the mysterious man pulled James back to the museum, though he tried to talk himself out of going the entire way. He stood before the entrance, staring at the glass doors. What am I doing here? He tried to turn away, but lost the battle. He might have had a chance against the lure of the amulet—but not against the mysterious man’s handsome face. The urge to go to the museum had never felt like a physical presence before, dragging him in.

 

Dan nodded and waved him in. “Here you are again.”

 

James tensed, expecting another lecture. When Dan said nothing else James released a breath he had not realized he was holding. He paid his ticket and entered the main hall, weaved through the two smaller adjacent rooms and into the gallery where the amulet was on display. His feet knew the way.

 

The gallery was darker than he remembered. Dark enough that the pale moonlight slanting down from a high window glowed like a spotlight on the amulet. Inside its glass case, the jewel seemed to float on its cushion of black velvet.

 

James took an involuntary step back. That strange man emerged from the shadows, flashing a predatory smile that turned James’ knees to water.

 

“Have you remembered my name?”

 

His dark stare unsettled James, but the amulet pulled at him. He found himself walking to stand beside the man, facing the display case. A whisper, a pulse rippled the air around James, and he reached out to the amulet. His hand hovered before the case.

 

“James.” The man sounded impatient. He tilted his head to the side. “I’m waiting.”

 

“Look, sorry, I don’t think I know you.” James shrugged, his hand resting on the cold glass. The urge to touch the jewel was overwhelming, a deep itch he had to scratch, an ache he had to relieve. “Maybe you’ve seen me at the cafe where I work. The World’s End, next to Winchester 21, the cinema.”

 

The man shook his head, sending his dark hair dancing. “I’m not from around here.”

 

“Right.” With effort, James pulled his hand back and stuffed it in his pocket. He had arrived at the museum dead tired, but now he felt as if lightning flowed through his veins. “Why don’t you just tell me your name?”

 

The man grinned. “If you don’t remember me, there’s no point in me telling you, is there?”

 

James stared at him. “That’s some twisted logic.”

 

“Say my name,” whispered the man.

 

“Back off, man.” James turned to leave, but glanced one last time at the jewel. The colorful designs on its glittering surface shifted and moved. He blinked. A voice buzzed in his head. Even as he tried to ignore it, the voice rose to a deafening screech, a gale, and he gasped. He leaned against the display case to steady himself.

 

He had definitely overdone it this month. He probably just needed rest. But the voice screamed in his head, demanding to be heard, a word that James finally spoke, “Horus.”

 

The man’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened. He stepped backward, his face draining of all color. “It’s you.”

 

The voice in James’ head laughed. He pushed off the display case, panting, and looked around for the guard. “Hey, is anyone here? Help me!”

 

“No.” The man touched James’ hand, and electric shocks passed through James’ fingers. His body convulsed. He clung to the man’s arm to keep from falling. “What are you doing?”

 

The lock of the display case clicked, drawing his eyes. The glass shook.

 

“Dan!” James’ scream echoed, but nothing moved in the museum. Fear became a lump of lead inside him.

 

“You spoke my name.”

 

He couldn’t understand what was happening. “What?”

 

“Horus. You called my name, Horus.”

 

The lights inside the museum went out one by one. The moonlight spilling through the window painted the man’s face with moving patterns, like slithering snakes. The room went deathly quiet. James swallowed hard, and tried to hear a sound, any sound.

 

The display case exploded into shards.

 

James cried out and covered his face with his hands to avoid the rain of glass. He struggled to back away, but his body refused to move. He reached out among the glittering glass, located the amulet, and lifted it. The silver object lay cool on his palm.

 

“Give me my jewel,” whispered Horus.

 

Throat dry, James fought to get the words out. “Your jewel?” His heart twisted at the thought of relinquishing it.

 

Horus’ hand hovered before James’ face, then fell. “I came looking for you. I knew the jewel would call you to me.”

 

James opened his hand and stared at the amulet, at its patterns of inlaid jet, and felt its pull flow through his whole body. He curled his fingers around the jewel, which vibrated and jumped. The metal was hot now, burning his palm. With a curse, he dropped it in Horus’ hands, and hoped he’d wake up from this dream soon.

 

His hand ached. The design of the winged disk and the eye, the symbols he’d seen in his dreams, had been burnt into his skin. The pain made it all horribly real.

 

Horus gripped James’ chin gently and turned his face, so they locked gazes. His dark eyes shimmered. His hand caressed James’ cheek, the line of his jaw. “Do you remember me now?”

 

James had never been so confused in his life. He knew he should be afraid, but the trail of those fingers on his face sent heat shooting to every part of his body. “Should I?”

 

Horus pulled away. The amulet seemed to twist in his grasp. One-handed, Horus tore his black shirt open. In the center of his chest, darkness writhed. James watched in horror as the man pushed the jewel into himself. The flesh closed around it, knitting, until the only thing showing was the all-seeing eye and the winged disk, forming silver details on his skin. His hair bleached to pure white, and one of his eyes turned milky, as if blind.

 

Fear coiled in James’ gut, cold and heavy. “God, what are you? How did you do that?”

 

The man advanced on him, white hair glowing like spun moonlight. The carvings on his chest glinted.

 

“It’s you,” he whispered. “I knew it the moment I saw you. I’ve waited for so long…”

 

His hand gripped James’ arm, so warm.

 

“Let me go,” James whispered, feeling oddly detached. I must be going into shock, he thought. I need a doctor. Maybe I’m having a heart attack. Where’s my cell phone… “There’s been a mistake, I don’t know you, I need to be in class early tomorrow, and—”

 

“Please, James,” Horus said. “They’ll know you’re awake. I’ll make sure you won’t try to destroy the world again.”

 

The room spun. “Destroy the world?”

 

But Horus didn’t speak. Instead, he leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Fire flowed into James’ mouth, bright light filled his eyes, followed by utter darkness, and he blacked out.

 

Read rest of chapter Here

 

© Jay Di Meo

 

 

The Falcon and the Jackal

The Storm Chronicles

Author:  Jay Di Meo

Publisher: Cobblestone Press

Genre: Paranormal/Gay

By link

James had never been attracted to a man before. But Horus, the Egyptian god of the sun, is not just any man. Drop dead gorgeous, Horus is also the harbinger of bad news.
He proclaims James to be Seth, his dark godly counterpart and ally, and warns that Osiris, god of the dead, is about to take over the world once more.
Caught between a game of power and falling in love with Horus, James must remember his past and regain his powers, or he’ll lose everything—his future, his former lover, and his own life.

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